Lecture at Chapel Hill Library to Focus on Planning for Growth

How we develop and plan for growth is always a hot topic in Chapel Hill and the surrounding area.

David Shreve is the President of Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population, which is an organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Shreve will be delivering a lecture Wednesday at the Chapel Hill Public Library entitled “The Myths that Shape Economic Development.”

“Myths associated with job creation, housing affordability, and broadening of the tax base,” is how Shreve describes the lecture.

Shreve says the lecture will focus on the idea that many of the decisions we make for development are based on assumptions rather than factual evidence.

He says the conversation will focus on key questions; “What are the weaknesses of the rationalizations we often make and the assumptions we make? What does the evidence show us?

“And when you’re dealing with issues of economic development, community clues, jobs, housing affordability, and the like.”

Shreve says his organization, ASAP, has not had policies they can point to of changing the way development is handled in Charlottesville, but says the goal is to educate the public.

He adds there are many similarities to development in Charlottesville and Chapel Hill because of the universities the towns house.

“There are unique considerations when it comes to college towns,” he says. “How they grow. How they develop. Particularly in this age. It’s something I consider a relatively new phenomenon.

“College towns have always been distinct in some ways. But with respect to economic development, and growth, and real estate patterns, we have seen a new structure emerge in the last generation.”

The lecture will begin at six o’clock Wednesday in Room A of the Chapel Hill Public Library and is scheduled to last until eight o’clock with time for questions.

Refreshments will be served.

This event is sponsored by the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town.


Is Affordable Housing a Priority for Chapel Hill?

Critics say Chapel Hill is not prioritizing affordable housing, especially in the Ephesus-Fordham district.

While a small portion of the 190-acre Ephesus-Fordham district does offer developers a density bonus for building affordable housing, there’s no mandate for affordable housing at Village Plaza Apartments.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Donna Bell says the town is prioritizing affordable housing as Ephesus-Fordham becomes more developed.

“Our thought behind Ephesus-Fordham is that this is a space that creates income,” says Bell. “It could bring more property taxes and multifamily buildings that don’t cost the same as single-family buildings, that it would bring more office and more retail. And thus, from those additional tax funds, we could support things that are important to us, like affordable housing and our transit.”

Chapel Hill’s new zoning rules for the Ephesus-Fordham district, known as form-based code, set parameters for building height, parking space and other details. And it authorizes the town manager, instead of the town council, to approve projects that meet the criteria.

Since the council enacted the new code ten months ago, the town received three project applications, and one, Village Plaza Apartments, has been approved and is now being built.

“When we talk about the Ephesus-Fordham piece, I’m thinking about the affordable rental units that are going to go away or have gone away over in that area, and that’s a sad state,” says Delores Bailey, executive director of the non-profit, EmPOWERment Inc. EmPOWERment helps place low-income people in homes.

Mark Marcoplos, who operates a local green building company, says we can’t have a substantial discussion about affordable housing without also talking about a “living wage,” the minimum wage necessary to meet one’s needs while living in a place.

“What we’ve done in Chapel Hill all these years, we’ve pumped up and advertised our school system,” says Marcoplos. “We’ve advertised to retirees. We’ve tried to create this oasis of wealth, and we were successful at doing that.”

Marcoplos also emphasizes the importance of adding routes to the public transportation system to serve those who cannot afford to live in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Marcoplos himself is a rural Orange County resident.

Bell, Bailey, Marcoplos and other Orange County leaders came to the WCHL Community Forum to discuss local affordable housing. Also in the room were Tish Galu, board chair of the nonprofit Orange County Justice United, and Daniel Eller, president and CEO of Eller Capital Partners, a major local property owner.

Several members of the panel said the greatest local housing need is rental housing affordable to people earning below 80 percent and below 30 percent of the area median income.

The panel touched on many other facets of affordable housing in Orange County. You can find audio from this panel and all the other panels – including a panel on development in Chapel Hill and one on poverty – here.


Chancellor Folt: Northside Neighborhood Initiative will Strengthen Community

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt says the Northside neighborhood initiative is aimed at helping strengthen the community.

“Our excitement about this is that we want to help that community be strong,” she says. “We’re only as strong as the community that surrounds us.

“We are really trying to help settle some of the problems, help make it possible for working families to stay there.”

Folt says the university is hoping to work with students to help them realize the value of a strong community.

The Northside neighborhood is a historically African-American community that has been evolving with student rentals from investors.

Earlier this year, UNC announced a deal with the Town of Chapel Hill that included a $3 million no-interest loan to help preserve the neighborhood.

Some of the investors have voiced concerns their rights as property owners were not being respected.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says the full decision-making process for the neighborhood does not lie solely with property owners.

“I think we need to be thoughtful about making sure that we tap into the full array of members of the northside community, including the investment community,” he says. “[But] now that the scales have tipped, where so much of the property is now in the hands of the investment community, you don’t just put up the flag that that should be the dominant voice.”

Kleinschmidt says the goal of this project is to bring stability to the neighborhood.

Folt says the university is excited to work with Self Help – who will manage the loan from UNC – based on their past work.

“They have really beautified neighborhoods. They have made them very attractive,” she says. “And it’s important for our entire region that every neighborhood feels like a thriving neighborhood, because that attracts people to a region.

“There are a lot of things that aren’t quite so obvious – in the way you state this – that can be the result. And I think we’re excited about working with Self Help based on their success.”

Folt says she is confident this will be a positive move going forward.

“There couldn’t be anyone that would disagree with the idea that the most vibrant communities are ones that have a mix of working families, seniors, and students,” Folt says. “And I think this is an initiative absolutely designed to maintain that kind of balance in a thoughtful, inclusive way.

“And I think we’re proud to be a part of it. It’s important to take risks [and] to try things in a developing, rapidly-growing region. If we don’t do it, who would?”

You can hear more on this discussion during the Town and Gown portion of the WCHL Community Forum.


Chapel Hill Development: What’s Working, What’s Not?

It’s been a decade since Chapel Hill leaders began to push for more commercial growth to balance the tax base. But David Schwartz, co-founder of Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, says in that time, the town has failed to move away from residential development.

“We cannot make up for a deficit in commercial by doubling down on the amount of residential that we build,” says Schwartz.

Town Council Member Maria Palmer says that’s not a fair assessment.

“You can’t say we’re not building enough commercial if every commercial proposal that is put forward is attacked by the same folks who have organized the group you represent,” says Palmer.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce President Aaron Nelson takes that idea even further.

“We’ve moved beyond NIMBY in our community,” says Nelson. “NIMBY stands for ‘not in my backyard.’ We’ve gotten to NOTE: ‘not over there either.’ And so, it is a challenge when you both want to protect your neighborhood and prohibit it from happening in other appropriate places as well.”

Schwartz is also critical of the town’s new form-based code, in which the council sets specific parameters for development, then hands over the approval process to the Town Manager’s office. He argues the town isn’t asking enough from developers.

“The problem we have with our form-based code is that we didn’t ask for anything,”says Schwartz. “We asked for basically nothing. We said OK because we are so eager to get some kind of investment in here, any kind, even if in fact, it is the wrong kind in terms of what the town needs, that we are going to basically ask for nothing.”

Last spring, the Town Council rezoned 192 acres near Ephesus-Fordham Boulevard using form-based code in a bid to spur redevelopment in the area. Ben Perry is with East West Partners, the development company that submitted the Village Plaza Apartment plan, the first project under the new rules. He takes issue with Schwartz’s assertion that the town asked for nothing.

“We paid a very significant payment-in-lieu to Parks and Recreation for open space to develop that somewhere else. We paid a transit fee to Chapel Hill Transit which is not a requirement anywhere else in town,” says Perry. “It’s not that the town didn’t get the things they wanted and usually expect, they just told us what they want and we didn’t haggle. We just did it.”

Now, a little less than a year after adopting the form-based code, the Town Council is considering a laundry list of adjustments to tweak the code based on public input and planning staff feedback.

Southern Village resident Jeanne Brown said she’s happy to hear there’s room for change.

“One of the concerns in the community is that we’ve gone up significantly in height and density- that changes character,” says Brown. “That’s something we’ve got to address and understand, that not everyone is feeling good and comfortable with that.”

Dwight Bassett is the Town’s economic development officer. He says building dense residential developments like Village Plaza Apartments can help draw commercial investment, a strategy he ultimate expects to benefit the whole town.

“From my perspective I think we’re headed on the right path and we’re going to wake up one day and look back at that district and say that was a great decision because it helped create something that was missing in Chapel Hill.”

You can hear more debate on the changing face of Chapel Hill here.


Congressman Price Makes Stop in Chapel Hill

US Congressman David Price made a stop in Chapel Hill this week to hold a Town Hall at East Chapel Hill High School.

Prior to the event, Price stopped by the WCHL studios and told WCHL’s Blake Hodge more about what his priorities are in Washington and shared his concerns about recent decisions from state lawmakers in North Carolina.

Listen to the full interview below:


Program to Feed Hungry has Best Year Ever

A local program that raises money to feed the hungry in Chapel Hill and Carrboro had its best year ever in 2014.

112 restaurants contributed more than $26,000 during the 2014 Restaurants Sharing V/5 & V/5 Percent event, in November.

That brings the 26-year total for funds raised to $457,386.

You can read the full letter from event founder Irene Briggaman below:

As we close the books on the November 11, 2014 RSVVP event, we are delighted to announce that this was the best year ever for Restaurants Sharing V/5 &V/5 Percent. The 2014 total of $26,004 brings our 26-year cumulative total to $457,386 – inching its way to a half million dollars to feed the hungry in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

This is the time for recognition and appreciation to all who make this annual community event such a success. Our sincere gratitude goes out to the restaurant owners who sign on year after year; to our faithful media who publicize the event (The Daily Tar Heel, The Chapel Hill News, WCHL 97.9FM and Chapelboro.com); to the diners who eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner and to the UNC community, students and faculty, who are urged to “Eat Out” on RSVVP Day by the HOPE Committee who help us to spread the word and flyers on the UNC Campus. Our RSVVP team, Pat Dorward, Susan Friedman, Donny and Mary Ann Walker, Frances Jackson and Elizabeth Garfunkel, worked diligently to recruit the restaurants and carry out the details of the project to its completion.

Inter-Faith Council executive director John Dorward stated, “RSVVP is IFC’s single largest fundraiser and it provides critical funding to our FoodFirst programs. Last year IFC’s Community Kitchen provided 84,645 hot meals and the Food Pantry distributed 16,828 bags of groceries and 867 holiday meals. This has a huge impact on our neighbors who are food insecure.”

Thank you, one and all, for contributing to the success of RSVVP 2014!

Irene Briggaman – founder and team member of RSVVP
Nancy Jenkins – RSVVP Coordinator


Olympic Medalist and Chapel Hillian Nick McCrory Retires

23-year-old Olympic medalist and Chapel Hillian Nick McCrory announced his retirement from diving earlier this year. But he’s not putting the sport behind him just quite yet.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make after diving for 15 years, but he recently came to the conclusion that it was time to call it quits.

“It was really hard and a decision I didn’t want to make. I don’t remember not diving in my life. It’s always been a huge part of what I do and who I am so that was really tough and huge adjustment,” Nick says.

Nick’s decision was partly due to a degenerative knee condition that he’s been battling for several years. Eventually, the condition became too much to work around.

Nick McCrory in action!

Nick McCrory in action!

Nick’s mother, Ana McCrory, says that his time spent training and competing shaped him as person, and she believes that his experiences will benefit him as he moves forward.

“It was a wonderful, overall, wonderful experience for him and one he’ll never forget. And its really shaped him as a person, you know, its taught him how to interact with other people from different cultures. As well as how to control his.. you know he was always such an active child, and he had to learn a lot of self control and diving certainly did that for him,” Ana McCrory says.

Nick is currently living in Indiana, where he is preparing for medical school applications and volunteering alongside his coach, Drew Johansen.

“Well I mean I love coaching and Drew knows that. One of the things that I liked about him as a coach is his technical approach to the sport and how detail oriented he is. One of the things that he does is watch a lot of diving videos to help become a better coach. He knows that I love the technical side of the sport and coaching in that way, so that was kind of how the connection got made,” Nick says.

Ana McCrory can tell that Nick is really enjoying helping out Coach Johansen.

WCHL's own Ron Stutts in studio with Nick McCrory and his medal.

WCHL’s own Ron Stutts in studio with Nick McCrory and his medal.

“He loves working with kids, loves teaching them, you know, all those diving skills that he knows. He gets great pleasure from seeing the kids learning things that he has taught them, so that’s been really nice,” Ana says.

Nick doesn’t know if this will lead to a career in coaching, but he hopes he’ll be able to stay involved with diving as he moves on to the next chapter in his life.

“I’m still figuring all that out. I do love to coach, I love the sport of diving. I don’t know right now if that’s a thing I’ll end up doing for a career. But whatever I end up doing, I do hope to stay involved in diving in some capacity whether it’s coaching on the side, or helping whatever program I am living nearby or various other things. I think diving is such a special thing that I always want to be involved in, in some way,” Nick says.


Chapel Hill Police Make Arrest in Stabbing Death

Chapel Hill Police have arrested 25-year-old Charles Anthony Rhames in connection with a fatal stabbing on Franklin Street Friday night.

Police have identified the victim as 27-year-old Walter Arthur Preston.

The incident occurred at 11:45 in the area of 209 East Franklin Street.

Police say Rhames was arrested without incident in the vicinity of 400 Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro.

Authorities say Rhames is being held without bond in the Orange County Jail on a first-degree murder charge.


Chapel Hill Police Looking for Robbery Suspect

Chapel Hill police are asking for your help identifying the man who robbed a gas station on Franklin Street Tuesday.

Chapel Hill Police Lt. Josh Mecimore says the crime was reported just before midnight at the Marathon store near the intersection of East Franklin Street and North Estes Drive.

“The clerk reported that the subject had come inside, left the store, came back in a short time later,” he says, “and assaulted the clerk and stole money from the cash register. Then fled.”

The suspect reportedly left the scene on foot. Mecimore says the clerk suffered no major injuries in the assault. Now, police are hoping someone will be able to help identify the suspect.

“The clerk described the suspect as a black male, 25-30 years old, between 5’6” and 5’10” tall, 150-160 pounds with a goatee,” he says. “That he was wearing a hat with the words ‘Killin’ it’ on the front of the hat, and then a black hoodie with the words ‘Durham Tech’ printed on it.

“Our hope is that that description might be distinctive enough for somebody to recognize that person might be and call us with some information.”

If you have any information, please call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous, and you may be eligible for a cash reward up to $2,000 for information that leads to an arrest.


Storrow Will Run for Chapel Hill Town Council in 2015

Chapel Hill Town Council Member Lee Storrow will run for reelection this fall. Storrow made the announcement on WCHL’s Morning News with Ron Stutts.

Storrow says he doesn’t believe the job he started four years ago is done.

“From some issues that I care a lot about, like getting sewer infrastructure put in place into the Rogers Road community, to some new issues that I’ve been able to tackle over the last four years, like expanding economic development opportunities and visitor promotion for Orange County and Chapel Hill,” he says, “I know there’s still more work to be done.

“And I think I can get those things done if I serve a second term of the town council.”

Storrow adds attending the ribbon cutting for the Rogers Road Community Center was a moment he is very proud of from his first term.

“I think it was one of the most powerful moments I’ve had over the last four years,” he says.

He says it will be important to work across governmental lines to continue moving issues forward that are important to residents.

“That we, as local leaders, build relationships with each other, and work together, and are willing to do the hard work to get things done outside of council meetings,” he says. “Because the reality is, things that happen on the school board and ensuring that we maintain a quality public school system, has a big impact on the quality of life and the type of town that we want to be in Chapel Hill.

“And if we’re not collaborating and working with our colleagues on the school board, or the Board of Alderman, or the County Commission, then we’re not doing our job right.”

2015 has a lot on the agenda, specifically involving budget discussions. Storrow says that he is excited about the discussions had so far in that process, which could include a bond referendum for capital needs projects.

Storrow was first elected to the Town Council in 2011.